Thursday, January 31, 2008

Ranger's Girl In Action

This past weekend, I gave a tour to a big group from my church, about 30 people. That is me at work - in action - telling people about Marine Corps history.

Clearly my waist band on my pants is not very sturdy, look how that speaker sags. I tell you, between the speaker and the walkie talkie I feel so frumpy.

That day at the museum was C-R-A-Z-Y!

January, February and the first part of March are usually slow museum days. Why? I don't know. I mean, its cold outside, museums are inside, you would think they'd have good attendance. I know that is when I enjoy visiting museums.

But back to the crazy. We had three special groups all coming in for a 10 a.m. tour. These were big groups of about 30 people. Group number one was made up of cub scouts and their parents. Group number two consisted of Marine Corps recruiters from Waldorf, Maryland and their delayed entry recruits. Group number 3 was my group, 30-plus singles from McLean Bible church. At about the same time we had a big group of about 30 Midshipmen walk in. Some of them joined my tour.

So does it look like I have their attention?

Here I am making a point with my water bottle.

You know, I do notice in these photos that I am standing tall and with my shoulders back. Someone made a comment once that I stood up so straight and tall when I gave my tours that I gave the appearance that I was a Marine. (whew! that's good - - would be bad to be a slouch while representing the Marine Corps). They also told me that I really light-up when I talk. I have wondered about that because many of my pictures I have seen taken of me talking with guests, I look like I am concentrating so hard on what they are telling me-- I don't think I have a "lit-up" face. Here, I kind of think I look like I'm being mischievous. That is my "I'm going to get in trouble" look.

Here I look more serious. But I'm talking about the Tet Offensive, specifically the battle for Hue City, in Vietnam. History note for y'all - - Today is the 40th anniversary of the start of the Tet Offensive.

There you have it. Me hard at 'work'.

By the way, a lot of cool stuff is going on at the museum. I just have not had the time to get you all up to speed.

There is a lot of construction going on in Semper Fi Memorial Park, to include the chapel. A great playground area is going up, so if you are traveling north on I-95 and are sick of sitting in traffic this spring and summer, pull over at the Quantico exit and stop in to the museum for food, clean bathrooms, and a great outdoor playground for the kids. Later this spring/early this summer, we are going to start the Phase 1A buildout. Boy, lots of cool stuff planned for that!
More scuttlebutt later!

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Few. The Proud. With Wings

A new memorial has been placed along what will be a new section of Semper Fidelis Memorial Park at the National Museum of the Marine Corps. This memorial is dedicated to the men who lost their lives testing the MV-22 Osprey in 2000. As you can see, it is a beautiful black granite monument, and yes, that is a reflection of the National Museum of the Marine Corps that you see in it. It sits on the main walkway, just to the right of General Lejeune's statue. I know its difficult to see, it was dusk and the monument is black granite so it blends in with the trees.

You are saying, to yourself, the walkway has stopped its sitting on grass. Yes, for now it is but in the near future, there will be a walkway lined with memorial bricks.

Below, detail of the front of the monument.

The names of the first Osprey crew lost in 2000 are printed on the left hand side of the monument.

The names of the second crew lost are printed on the right side of the monument.

On the walkway, it sits toward the back of the museum, opposite the parking lot. I think it has a beautiful back drop looking into the trees and when you step behind the monument, you get this great view with the museum.

This is the detail on the back of the monument. Several of the men left behind wives and young children. It is a sobering, yet beautiful reminder of the sacrifices made by Marines and their families.

You may be interested in the Foundation's website where you can find links to more information on each of the men.

The Marines listed on this monument were hand-picked to test the MV-22 Osprey. These Marines gave their lives doing what they believed in, and from what I have read on some of the individual sites, they were doing what they loved. Testing an aircraft can be exciting, however aviation, like the sea, is unforgiving. They were pioneers.

As you know, the Osprey is now flying missions in Iraq. You can actually visit a State Department Official's blog to check out photos he took out the back of one of these tilt-rotor aircraft in Iraq. Apparently, its a pretty exciting ride.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Price They Paid

The photo shows Marine Corps Veterans from the past writing post cards to Marines in the fight in Iraq and Afghanistan today.

I had been looking for the following for some time and accidently came across it. Funny how when you aren't looking for something, you find it. It really drives home the sacrifices of our nation's founders. I think Americans forget our what went on in our past in order for our democratic country to exist. I also think other nations forget about how difficult it is to forge a democratic government from a dictatorship or totalitarian regime. They expect democracy to happen overnight - - and when it doesn't, they view it as a failure of the United States, specifically.

I wonder, how many of our presidential candidates could live up to the signers of the Declaration of Independence? How many would be willing to give up what these men and their families gave up?

The Price They Paid

Have you ever wondered what happened to the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence?

Five signers were captured by the British as traitors, and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons in the Revolutionalry Army, another had two sons captured. Nine of th56 fought and died from wounds or the hardships of the Revolutionary War.

They signed and they pledged their lives, their forutnes, and their sacred honor.

What kind of men were they? Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists. Eleven were merchants, nine were farmers and large plantation owners, men of means, well-educated. But they signed the Declaration of Independence knowing full well that the penalty would be death if they were captured.

Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships swept from the seas by the British navy. He sold his home and properties to pay his debts, and died in rags.
Thomas McKearn was so hounded by the British that he was forced to move his family almost constantly. He served in the Congress without pay, and his family was kept in hiding. His possessions were taken from him and poverty was his reward.

Vandals or soldiers or both, looted the properties of Ellery, Cymer, Hall, Walton, Gwinnett, Hewyard, Ruttledge, and Middleton.

At the Battle of Yorktown, Thomas Nelson, Jr., noted that the British General Cornwallis had taken over the Nelson home for his headquarters. The owner quietly urged General George Washington to open fire. The home was destroyed, and Nelson died bankrupt.
Francis Lewis had his home and properties destroyed. The enemy jailed his wife, and she died within a few months.

John Hart was driven from his wife's bedside as she was dying. Their 13 children fled for thier lives. His fields and his grist mill were laid waste. For more than a year he lived in forests and caves, returning home to find his wife dead and his children vanished. A few weeks later he died from exhaustion and a broken heart.

Norris and Livingston suffered similar fates.

Such were the stories and sacrifices of the American Revolution. These were not wild-eyed, rabble-rousing ruffians. They were soft-spoken men of means and education. They had security, but they valued liberty more. Standing tall, straight and unwavering, they pledged:

"For the support of this declaration with a firm reliance on the protection of the Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor."

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Tax Rebates

What are you going to do with yours?

I just took an AOL poll and the majority of respondents said they would use it to pay existing bills. (That is what I plan on doing should I get one).

Of course, this defeats the whole purpose of the tax rebate. Congress and the White House want us to take the windfall and spend it.

Well, you know what, spending is what got us into economic trouble to begin with. We Americans spend far more than we make. We are instant gratification - - you see a cool TV and you buy it. Some pretty outfits - - and you buy them. We are a country of such plenty, yet such want.

I wish I could say my credit card bills are for the fun things I did this summer. I did the wise thing with my big trips, I paid cash for the tickets. I didn't want to put this stuff on my credit card. The only thing was, my cash reserves were depleted ( 4 weddings and about 6 bridal showers for those 4 weddings will do that to ya). When Stryker broke his leg, the only choice I had was to put it on my credit card -- along with car repairs (that is what I get milking my car along to over 170,000 miles).

So - - my tax rebate won't be used to purchase anything new. New purchases are on hold till I pay my cat's leg off.


In my quest to learn more about the candidates, I found the following site, Real Clear Politics. Not sure if it clarifies but it sure is chock full of information! I got the poll pictured above from this site.

So far, it looks like McCain is the only Republican that beats the Democratic candidates. For the Democrats, well, Clinton and Obama are neck and neck. I was trying to find the delegate count but am not able to at this time. Maybe because my head is so foggy with sinus meds.
I really feel like this election is a big deal. We have had a Clinton or a Bush in the Whitehouse since 1992. And if you think about it a since the senior Bush was VP with Reagan - - the clock goes back to 1980. So - - when candidates talk about change, I just don't see Hillary bringing in the change. I've also heard many first hand accounts of how condensending the Clintons were to military personnel. So the fact that we are at war - - and Hillary has flip flopped so often (frist she's for it and sending in lots of troops at the beginning and now she is against it and wants to bring everyone home) I feel like she just said what she needed to say at a certain point in time to be "popular".

The rest of the field. I'm not overly excited about anyone. Mainly because I don't know where anyone stands. I still haven't eeked out enough time to look over their platforms. Tonight? Maybe until the sinus meds kick in and knock me out.

Oh The Fog

The daisies have nothing to do with my blog today. They are just bright and cheery and its cold and dreary here. I am also sick.

Yep, the cold showers did me in.

So today I should have just stayed home. I got to work, took sinus meds and they totally zonked me out. I would turn my head and it seemed like the whole world was then trying to catch up with me. Wooo Nelly!

I went to a meeting that I shouldn't have gone too. It was a struggle to stay awake and my notes are chicken scratch. I'm writing and then doze off and my pen goes streaking across the paper. I should have gone home because the professional perception of me tanked, I'm sure.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Small Things In Life Bring Such Joy...

... like hot showers.

You don't realize how much you appreciate something until you don't have it, or until it turns cold on you. I have spent the last 2 days taking cold showers in the locker room at the gym at my work. Why on earth would Ranger's Girl take a cold shower? Especially when its like 17 degrees outside. Well, I didn't have a choice. Apparently, everyone is on the get fit in the new year kick and the hot water tank just hasn't had the capacity to accommodate all of us.

Yesterday was the worst. I had done an hour of cardio so I was drenched in sweat. I turned on one shower and it was ice cold. The thought of it still gives me chills. I yelled out to the other women - - did any of the showers have hot or warm water. I switched showers to one that had brisk water. It wasn't pins and needles cold - - but cold enough you didn't want to stand under it for long. Interestingly, I was REALLY awake all day.

Today, a man came in the weight room and was joking with some of the other men not to use up all the hot water, that he had taken a cold shower for the past two days. I replied, "You and me both!"

Funny how you can bond with a complete stranger over the shared experience of ice cold showers. However, after sharing the story of how getting ice cold water in the middle of my shower on the first day caused my back and hip to cramp up -- I realized all the men in the weight room were picturing me standing in the shower with cold water running over me. Not an image I want strangers to have - - well strangers I see everyday. Does that make them strangers then?

Today, I entered the locker room and asked the other women, "Any hot water today?" And are you ready - - YES! It was very hot! So exciting! After two cold days - -this morning's shower was like heaven!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Snow Tubing Fun

Had a blast snow tubing today at Whitetail ski resort in Pennsylvania.

That is me in green, kneeling behind my tube, dead center, with grey hood.

I'm really tired so not much else to write here! Hope all are enjoying the winter weather if you have it.

401K Clarification

Thanks for your comment Flora.

A 401k plan in the United States is a retirement account. 401k is the tax code that defines this type of plan for private corporations. For public institutions such as schools and colleges, its a 503b retirement plan. 401k plan should not be confused with $401,000. I wish I had this much in my 401k plan.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Americans pay for housing booms excess

You got that right!

Tuesday morning, I wrote a page long rant about what the darn housing boom has cost me after seeing my 401K statement for the last quarter of 2007. While I got a healthy 10% return in 2007, the last quarter results were pretty much equivalent to me burning my contributions along with my company's match.

I don't feel bad for the lenders one bit. They created this problem. Made it worse, actually, by providing people who wouldn't have qualified for traditional loans, they inflated the customer base. Here in Washington, DC, that resulted in bidding wars on homes that shot things way out of control.

Now, some people made out on the deal - - like my sister, who purchased a one bedroom condo in Alexandria, VA a year before things got really crazy. She had some help from my mom and dad with closing costs. By the way, I am still bitter about that, as that was what I was trying to save for. Even offered my sister the option of the two of us going together to buy a house - - didn't know she already had a plan. O.k. my blood pressure is rising so I'll cut this short. Basically, she held onto her condo for two years and sold it the year after I bought my townhouse (I had no help from mom and dad) and she made $100,000. She took a year off from work and just worked out, volunteered and studied for the LSAT and GMAT.

I had to continue saving my pennies while working my butt off and bought my house during the upswing - - thankfully before the peak. Thankfully, no sub-prime loans here.

However, thanks to the wacko lending practices which flooded the market with buyers - - I really paid a lot more for my two bedroom townhouse than I should have. Now, hmm, now I'd be lucky to sell it for what I paid for it. Granted, the falling property value does mean lower taxes. (Positive thoughts).

Now, I don't want to continue to get screwed by a federal government bailout. Are you kidding me - - that is just too bad that banks screwed themselves over and are losing money. As a stock holder (via my 401k) in many of these institutions, I'm footing the bill already in losses. I'm paying them interest on my loans (which were higher than they would have been in a normal market). I don't want to fork over more money to them via higher taxes to cover their irresponsibility. I especially don't want to bail them out when the executives of these financial institutions are raking in high dollar bonuses.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Getting to Know the Candidates

Well, the primary here in Virginia is less than a month away. I've decided that I should get to know a little bit about the candidates - - actually be an educated voter.

Well, I could let Oprah guide me, I mean she's educated and all. Oh, and she makes lots of money, so she's gotta know what she's talking about when she backs her man Obama. That would save me a lot of time. If you let another educated person decide your vote, does that make you an educated voter by default?

I'm being my typical, dorky, journalism-history-poli sci major self. I have created a matrix comparing the candidates on the issues. I also used all my black ink printing out their platforms (yes, I actually read those things - - how else can you compare). Interestingly, I found that all candidates touch on the same issues across the board. I'm out to find out what is different about each - - or are they different?

The differences at a glance in issues I have found are:

1) Republicans have on their platforms the sanctity of life and 2nd amendment rights

2) Barack Obama stands alone in having Civil Rights as a platform issue

3) Hillary Clinton stands alone in having Women as a platform issue.

One of the universal issues among candidates is Health care.

Here is Hillary's proposal:

Obama's proposal:

John Edwards' proposal:

Mitt Romney's proposal:

Mike Huckabee's proposal:

John McCain's proposal:

Are they saying anything we don't already know? How different are their plans? These sound bites don't really get to the meat of their plans - - that is why I'm also reading their platforms.

Yes, I know I haven't selected ALL the candidates running - - I've copped out and just selected the top three so far in both party's races (I only have so much time!)

Sound off - - who do you think has the best Health Care plan?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Ambassadors and 6-year olds

This is another recent photo I took of the museum around 6 p.m.

Well, as usuall, I have some interesting and cute, mostly cute, stories to tell you about the National Museum of the Marine Corps.

The other day, I noticed a man along with his sons (high school, college age) taking a look at the Corsairs we have in the Leatherneck gallery, so I told them about the differences and started telling them about the other aircraft in the museum. Turns out the guy is New Zealand's Deputy Ambassador to the United States. A Marine General recommended he visit the museum. Of course, Marine Corps World War 2 History is all in the Pacific. He was excited to see a New Zealand artifact in the timeline in Legacy walk - - the baseball used in the first ever baseball game in New Zealand, played by Marines in 1943. I'll have to remember to take a photo of it and add it here later. He was very impressed with the museum. I was so glad that he and his sons were having a good visit.

That same day another father and his two sons came in for a visit. The boys were about 4 and 6. As they started to walk into the orientation film, the 6 year old said, "Dad, I don't want to watch TV, I want to look at the displays."

These two little boys were so excited to be at the museum. The oldest asked me all about the HRS-1 helicopter and had his dad write down information (apparently, they look stuff up on the internet later - - these are obviously very smart little boys!) Yep, I think I may have met a future Commandant of the Marine Corps.

I ran into them again in the Vietnam gallery - - they asked me questions about the war dog. So I told them about that and the booby traps and I pointed out the A-4 and we ran into that gallery (you know 4 and 6 year old boys have very short attention spans and run back and forth) Well after checking out the model of the air field at Chu Lai, we headed into Hue City where the Ontos is.

I said, "In this next room, there is a really cool vehicle that is similar to a tank!"

The 6 year old held his hand up in the international sign that means "Stop" and says, "We've been here before and we want to do this by ourselves."

Nuts! They were so excited! I was so bummed!

I love seeing young kids getting excited about this stuff.